Becoming a nurse practitioner is an excellent way to becoming a vital member of the healthcare community. Nurse practitioners are able to care for, diagnosis, and treat patients for a wide variety of conditions and situations. They work in a variety of environments, from hospitals to private practices.
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have gone on to receive advanced degrees, typically master’s degrees, which also give them, further clinical training to enable them to work with greater autonomy. The laws that govern how much freedom nurse practitioners have to diagnosis and prescribe medication vary from state to state.
Nurse Practitioner vs. Physician Assistant: What’s the Difference?
There are many similarities between the career paths of a nurse practitioner and a physician assistant; however, there are a few differences regarding autonomy and educational background.
A nurse practitioner typically begins their career as a registered nurse and has an average of ten years experience before entering a program to become a nurse practitioner. The program to become a nurse practitioner is an advanced degree program, often a master’s degree program, which combines advanced academics with clinical training. The program is completed with the passing of an exam.
A physician assistant usually enters the advance degree program more directly out of school. It is also an advanced degree program, typically a master’s degree program. The program includes intense academics, as well as clinical hours for training. Like a nurse’s assistant, they are licensed and accredited by an exam. They enter the work force following school with significantly less experience than most nurse practitioners.
Once they are accredited, both nurse practitioners and physician assistants are able to diagnosis and treat medical conditions as well as prescribe medication. Some states allow nurse practitioners to work with a high degree of autonomy, without the need of oversight from a physician or other medical professional. Other states will require nurse practitioners to work in hand with a supervising physician.
All physician assistants must work with a physician functioning as the head of practice, but some guidelines allow for loopholes with the lead physician operating remotely and the physician assistant functioning as the primary care provider.
District of Columbia: Nurse practitioners at a glance
Number of NPs: 730
NPs per 100,000 populations: about 122
Who governs/grants licenses to NPs: District of Columbia Board of Nursing
Do you need to be an RN? Yes
Do you need a Master Science of Nursing to become a NP?
The degree must be in an area of practice that is accepted by the Board of Nursing. In addition, it must be accredited by a national accrediting body and is relevant to the practice for an advanced practice registered nurse.
Are there other requirements?
Good ethical standing
How much can a nurse practitioner earn in the District of Columbia?
$106,000 (salaries vary based on the employment setting, geographic location, educational background, and years of experience)
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision for diagnosis and treatment?
No supervision required
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision to prescribe medication?
No supervision required
Are there some drug classifications NPs cannot prescribe? If so, what are they?
NPs are authorized to prescribe controlled substances, including Schedule II-V, but the district registration requirements and federal DEA registration are contained in rules.
The District of Columbia Nurse Practitioner Outlook
There have been many discussions regarding the role of nurse practitioners in providing primary care, especially as there is a national shortage of primary care physicians. Finding more medical professionals, who are capable of providing primary care, can help alleviate the problems of higher medical costs due to lack of primary care.
A higher number of nurse practitioners can help to get primary care to a wide section of the population, including those in rural areas who may lack to access to regular physicians. This can help keep general healthcare costs down.
Those who oppose granting greater autonomy to nurse practitioners across the board say that it may result in substandard care since nurse practitioners have less training than physicians, although studies conducted on the idea have not shown this to be true.
A District of Columbia nurse practitioner already receives a fair amount of autonomy and they also have a high salary compared to the rest of the country. This gives a respectable position to offer primary care to the local residents. It is likely that they will continue to expand their program for the benefit of the people, which is advantageous for those who are interested in working in the area.